One Light Low-Key Portrait: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


In this episode, I’m going to show you how you can get a low-key look, from just one light. Hi everybody! Welcome to another episode of exploring photography. I’m Mark Wallace, and once again I’m joined by a beautiful Katie, and we are wrapping up our four-part series on the properties of light, and the position of our light, and how that affects everything. And so if you haven’t seen the first three episodes, make sure you check that out! Well in this episode, we’re going to be doing is something a little bit different. I want to get a really low-key, high contrast portrait of Katie. We’re going to do a profile shot. We’re going to do that with one light. We’re going to make this using all the principles that we learned previously. So normally when you’re in the studio shooting, so we have a white background back here. Katie come right over here. Normally what we do is, we have our light facing our model. But as you can clearly see this light. That is our key light, is facing toward the camera. I’m going to be shooting right here, so I’m gonna be shooting this way toward Katie, so how does this work? Well we’re combining some of the things that we learned previously. The first is diffusion, and so we learned that when we have a light source close to our subject, we have a large effective size, because what happens is, that light is bouncing all over, and that’s exactly what is happening here! So can you stay right there, you’re going to look this way, so even though this is facing toward the camera. A lot of this light is spilling, and wrapping around Katie’s face, and because she’s going to be looking this way, that is going to give her a really nice soft light. We don’t want this light to go onto the background, and so we’re actually facing it toward our camera. The other thing that I’ve done here is, I’ve added a grid. That’s just going to keep the light, and control that, so it’s not scattering too much. Because I don’t want it to fall into the lens of my camera, and give us lens flare and things like that! So this grid is just going to make sure that the light is directional. So it’s soft light, it’s diffused light, it’s directional light, and because it’s close to Katie that the effective size is large. That’s how we get that nice soft light. The problem with this, because this is all coming this direction, the other side, the opposite side of Katie’s face, is going to fall into darkness. We need to fix that. Somehow and I have a trick. Right here, we have this. This is a sign, a little whiteboard that we had hanging out in the studio here. I’m going to place that on the other side of Katie, and what that’s going to do is, this light that’s coming this way, is going to bounce off of that, into the opposite side of Katie’s face, and we’re going to get this really awesome portrait. So without further ado, let’s shoot. So one quick note, I don’t have any other tripods or assistants or anything. So I’m going to be doing this all by myself. So I’ve pre focused my camera, and you might see me getting a little bit closer and farther away from Katie. The reason I’m doing that is, I can see when I’m in focus, and then I’m just going to hold this up on the other side, so I can bounce the light. So you don’t have to have a lot of stands and assistants, and a bunch of fancy stuff. You can do this as a one-man show, and so Katie here we go! I’ve already metered the light at f/8, and then take about a half a step back. Perfect you’re looking in exactly the right place. I’m going to focus my camera really quickly first. We’re going to do a shot with no reflector. This is beautiful, I love this. Awesome. Now I’m going to cheat a little bit to the right… as we learn, when we look at the position of our light in relationship to the camera, that’s helping out, that is gorgeous, and so now I’m going to add a reflector, and then just make that as close as I can get it without being in the shot, and perfect! I absolutely love this image, and just by understanding the position of light, the quality of light, and language of light, we were able to create some really dramatic results. You would never think that pointing the light toward the camera would give us a shot that looked like that. Well I hope that you enjoyed this little mini-series! If you want to see more about lighting and studio lighting, off camera flashing, all that kind of stuff. Make sure you click Subscribe. So you don’t miss a single episode, make sure you check me out on Instagram and I will see you again next time!

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